Category Archives: Collectables

A Crowd of Customers and the Laws of Chance

We opened at 10.00 this morning, the phone went at 10.01 and two elderly gents walked in at 10.02 with three bags of coins. One wanted to sell coin.

Meanwhile. his friend wanted to look at postcards, which involved finding various boxes and albums for him. We need to get organised when we move shops. Two shop assistants, two customers. So far, so good.

Then a lady came in to sell some silver, banknotes, coins and medals. It was a shame about the medals, as they had no paperwork or photographs with them. He saw service in the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean and the Pacific with the Royal Navy during the war, but without extra details or medals with names on, all the history is lost.

So that was two assistants and three customers. Then a regular customer came and wanted to look at coins. The phone kept ringing with enquiries. Then two more people came in with things to sell…

Two assistants, six customers. It’s not ideal, as you can’t leave people hanging round too long, particularly if you want to take money off them, but you can’t do three jobs at the same time.

Eventually we managed to finish, and everyone seemed happy. I wasn’t even rude to anyone on the phone, though it was touch and go at times. It wasn’t the subject matter, it was the fact that they all start with a similar, lengthy, preamble, which you can do without when you have a full shop.

I don’t mind the fact that most questions are about “rare” coins: the laws of chance dictate that one day it really will be a rare coin or an interesting medal.

It really will.

 

“Rare” Coins and Dark Thoughts

It sometimes feels like we’re under siege in the shop.

Every day we get phone calls or personal callers with “rare coins” to sell. I don’t mind it if the coins are old (by which I mean pre-decimal) because there is at least some hope of something interesting cropping up. The “rare coins” that provoke me to thoughts of homicide are the ones that are reported as being rare in the press, on the internet,or, even worse, on ebay.

Recently we’ve had several reports of rare 2007 £2 coins. It’s a commemorative issue which marks the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire. The rarity is not in the coin itself (with a mintage of over 8,000,000 it’s actually reasonably common) but in the placement of the edge inscription.

The motto AM I NOT A MAN AND A BROTHER is impressed around the edge. According to the intellectual giants who stoke the hellish fires of rare coin “knowledge” the lettering should be right way up when the Queen’s head is uppermost. If it is upside down, the coin is the “rare” variety.

2007 £2 coin

2007 £2 coin – reverse

Now, this is where things start to come unstuck. The edge inscriptions are put on by a roller before the final striking and people who know about the process are happy that the inscription is going to land in accordance with the laws of chance – 50% will be right way up and 50% will be rare varieties worth £300 on ebay.

Or, to look at it another way, there is no rare variety. There’s also no evidence of one selling for £300 on ebay in the last month or so.

Turning to the actual prices realised on ebay, which are often very different from the fanciful figures put on the coins that don’t actually sell, I found one that sold  for £500, one for £102, one for £23, three for £20 and only two others in double figures.

Some people clearly shouldn’t be allowed on ebay without supervision.

Thirty three coins, after allowing for ebay fees, sold for £2 or less, with several selling for 99 pence.

That’s from a total of 155 sales in the last 6 weeks.

I will let the figures speak for themselves.

 

 

 

How to Pack a Parcel

I had a crash course in shop work today. Ebay shoppers had a sudden urge to bid last night and we ended up with fourteen parcels to pack, including several with multiple items and two going overseas. This job can be quite exciting at times.

I’ve not quite got the hang of it  yet, because the ebay site has changed a bit since I last used it, and not necessarily for the better. However, I’m sure I’ll get used to it.

The stages of packing a parcel are –

Check ebay notification

Find item (stock control will, I hope, improve when we move shops)

Select correct envelope

Insert item into envelope (which may require wrestling and ingenuity)

Add compliments slip

See if it goes through the slots in the card we have – Large Letter or Small Letter

Weigh

Select appropriate postage rate for size, weight and country

Write postage on envelope

Put appropriate sticker on – Signed for, Special delivery etc

Stick stamps on

Seal

Write address

Write return address

Air Mail sticker (if necessary)

Customs Declaration (if necessary)

Simple enough, you would think, but I managed to cock it up several times. There are a number of ways to get it wrong if you are new to the job, talking at the same time and thinking of that delicious salad your wife is making you have for lunch. And that’s before you drop the pen, stick a stamp on upside down, lose the stickers…

All in all, an interesting day, for me. I’m not sure it makes riveting reading though, as I seem to have failed to capture the drama and romance of putting coins and banknotes into padded envelopes.

Tomorrow it might be a medallion. Who knows? Life can get pretty crazy at the cutting edge of retail.

The coin in the picture is from the reign of Elizabeth I (1533 – 1603). It was actually one of the detector finds from the farm, but I thought a coin picture would look good seeing as I work in a coin shop. 

 

 

 

 

 

Nottingham Badges of the Great War

I’ve been taking pictures of Nottingham-related badges recently. You probably guessed that from the photographs of Nottingham-related badges in this post.

The “Comforts for Troops” badge in the header picture opens up some interesting sites on the net, including this one, with the story of Beatrice Whitby, who seems to have been an exceptional woman, even from the age of eleven. Interestingly, given the times in which she grew up, she did all that work without even having the right to vote.

There is an archive preserved in the Imperial War Museum, which includes many personal papers, and 209 postcards from soldiers who received parcels from the fund whilst prisoners of war. I will let you read the link if you want more detail, for now I will just say that they sent 40,000 parcels to prisoners of war, which was a huge effort.

My Dad and his two brothers raised money for comforts, with a penny a week fund and various other events during the Second World War,  so this is an area that I’m quite interested in.  Dad never mentioned it, I found out by accident when researching  family history in newspapers a few months ago.

This is an Australian article on knitted comforts as I can’t find anything on knitted comforts from Nottinghamshire. It’s interesting, though it does seem a bit ungrateful in places when discussing the quality of socks.

I can’t find anything on the Relatives Association badge so far, or the Hospital badge, though I can tell you that I bought the badge in a mixed lot at the J. Tanenbaum Collection at Neales Auction (Nottingham) on 28 February 1991. It was incidental to the things I actually wanted and it was the badge that set me off collecting badges, so it has a lot to answer for.

Shillings, Sorting and Sunset

Julia had a restful day today and, as a result, is feeling better.  She seems surprised by this, despite events proving quite clearly that her bad back is linked to doing too much.

She’s just been reading a report on research done on Mensa members. It seems that the hairier you are, the smarter you are. She then offered the opinion that I should delay the remodelling of my beard, which I have been contemplating for some time. I’m not sure the correlation works quite as clearly as that, but it’s something to think about.

I wouldn’t want to decrease my IQ by cutting my hair, after all, by using ebay I’m already damaging my intelligence quite enough.

You don’t need a great deal of intelligence to sort shillings, lift boxes and organise accessories, which have been my main activities of day.

It was still light when we left the shop at 4.20, which is a good sign, and I took several shots of the sky at that point, before doing a few more in the supermarket car park whilst buying things for tea. I tried for some shots of the tiny sliver of moon but it wasn’t light enough and the long exposure meant that they all ended up shaky.

 

 

 

A Typical Day in the Shop

I thought of taking some pictures to illustrate what I did at work today. It consisted mainly of buying and sorting coins (three times), turning down two lots of cigarette cards (there’s no market for them), helping a burglary victim with an insurance claim and explaining to someone why creasing a bank note heavily makes it unsaleable. As you can probably imagine, I wasn’t able to do much in the way of interesting photography.

We also had the normal calls from people trying to sell us “rare” coins from their change. It’s nice that people are interested in coin collecting again, but it does take time and tact to deal with the enquiries, particularly when they quote ebay as if it’s  holy writ.

£2 coin commemorating the Great Fire of London

Commemorative £2 coin

Ebay, as I may have mentioned before, is a guide to what idiots do when they have ten minutes to waste.

You can currently buy a Kew Gardens commemorative 50p for £149.99 on ebay. Or you can come down to the shop and buy one off us for £80, though we’ve had it several weeks now and it hasn’t sold. Or you can get a sense of proportion and buy a nice historical coin.

For that sort of money you can buy a nice silver denarius of Emperor Commodus (177 – 192), a sixpence of Charles I or a very clean George III sixpence of 1818. So much history…

(I have no link to this shop – I don’t even know the dealer, but it’s a good site for finding examples.)

Or you can buy an eight-year-old 50p piece, which may go out of fashion next year.

After fulminating on the state of coin collecting I polished the counters and cleaned the calculator.

They are all the same size, despite the way they appear in the photographs – something I need to address.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the fact that people are interested in coin collecting again, and that they can find collectable coins in their change once more (like I used to do in the pre-decimal days of my youth). However, I don’t like the way the Royal Mint markets coins these days and I don’t like all the hype surrounding modern coins.

 

Time Moves On

Julia’s phone has been going all day. The large polytunnel in the gardens proved unable to resist the wind last night and the ancient, brittle sheeting disintegrated. Despite being off ill, she has had a constant stream of texts, photographs and requests for decisions.

To call in a team of experts would cost £500 over and above the cost of the plastic. At the moment she is waiting for an answer from the Young Farmers’ Club. to see if they are able to help.

In the shop we assembled a couple of office chairs. They are now pushed up to the desk in the middle room, waiting for a dedicated ebay team. However, it will probably end up with me and Eddie. One of the customers is currently refurbishing a computer for me and then he’s going to set a printer up a wireless network. This might seem normal to you, but it’s close to being miraculous to me, as none of my previous jobs have involved using a computer. I had my own for doing ebay, but I’ve never worked for someone else, or with someone else, using a computer.

This, I suppose, is the 21st century.

After that I had to remove a coin collection from plastic pages. Over the years the pages had sealed the coins in, so I ended up cutting them out with scissors.  It’s a tedious job, but there was a Maundy fourpence in it, amongst the silver threepenny bits, so it felt worthwhile.

It’s even more tedious than sorting out the two plastic boxes of mixed cupro-nickel coins. Half-crowns, florins, shillings and sixpences plus large-sized 10 and 5 pence coins. I’m so used to the small 10p and 5p that the old-fashioned large ones come as a bit of a surprise. Thinking of it, I should have taken pictures to illustrate this. I may do that tomorrow.

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Newark, Notts

In the afternoon I was off, so I took a quick trip to Newark to see my mate on the market. He was one of three stallholders who had braved the wind and rain, and they had all spread out to make the market look fuller. There were seven trees down on the way, with two teams still working on clearing them. It’s been quite windy round here. Fortunately all the roads had been cleared so there were no delays.

That’s about it. Julia is continuing her slow recovery, but while I was out this morning she inspected the garden for storm damage and, whilst struggling to keep her balance, managed to topple over.  She does that. As soon as I’m distracted she tries to do too much and sets herself back. Fortunately she hasn’t hurt herself, but I’m thinking of rigging the house with CCTV so I can prevent a repeat.

I didn’t get many photos today, just a few silhouettes of Newark and some sky.

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A dry view of Newark